The $1000 Challenge – How I’m Going To Make 1K By The End Of The Year

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So if you’re one of the 154 people on my email list (I know right…only 154?), you got the email I sent out the other day that eluded to something big that will be happening around here soon.

If you’re new to NinjaBudgeter, I started this site in late-2016 as a way to share my unique ideas about budgeting, side-hustling and financial management with the world. Oh, and hopefully make some money. That’s right, you are literally inside my side-hustle right now…awkward?

Anyways, if you’ve been around for a while you know that in November of last year, I did a $100 blogging challenge. For those of you who don’t know, I challenged myself to earn $100 through this blog. I did it, though not in the way I originally intended.

Since then, I’ve let other priorities keep me from investing the time and energy into growing this site.

Major happenings in 2018

Though my focus on this blog hasn’t been as consistent as I would like it to be, I have had a few major successes this year.

Podcasts

I have been interviewed or mentioned on three podcasts this year including Side Hustle Nation. I’m only on for a few seconds of this episode but whatever, it counts :). I find that I enjoy communicating through voice and video so I’m hoping to do some more of these in the future.

Traffic

In December of last year, my average views per day was around 40. Super lame for a site that was over a year old. As of this month, I get anywhere from 300-600 views most days. That’s a big win in my opinion.

I had a couple of significant traffic spikes this year. The first was when I wrote an article about why I stopped following Dave Ramsey. That was shared a lot on Pinterest and Twitter and resulted in a traffic spike and quite a bit of engagement.

make first $1000 blogging

The second was a month or so later when that same article was featured on Rockstar Finance. I got more than 2.5k visitors in a single day, more than I’d ever had before. While the initial buzz died off both times you can see that my traffic leveled off at a higher point than where it was previously.

Income

While I haven’t focused much on making income since the $100 challenge, I have made a few affiliate sales of a low three-figure product this year. The commission isn’t great and the sales come far between, but it’s encouraging that some people are connecting with the offers on my site. Now I just have to dial it in and better align my affiliate offerings with the needs of my audience.

Though I’ve made a few bucks, I haven’t been able to get steady income coming in just yet. At the beginning of this year, I made a goal to get my site’s income to $1000/month by the end of the year, and to say I’m not on-track to make that goal would be a dramatic understatement.

So with that said, here’s what I’m going to do about it…

The $1000 Challenge

Last year, I committed myself to making $100 using the advice found in this post by the guys over at Breaking The One Percent. If you’re not familiar with Jeff and Ben, you should check out their other blog DollarSprout, and consider joining their Facebook group. They’re pro bloggers who have made a name for themselves with hard work and determination, and they don’t have a $500 course to sell you :)…yet.

When I went public with the challenge, part of what kept me motivated to see it through was knowing that people were watching. I have a ton of great ideas about how to make money, but there’s definitely more credibility that goes along with watching somebody go out and do it in real-time.

So the next logical step for me is the $1000 Challenge. My goal is to earn at least 1k total from this site between now and New Years.

That’s right, $1000. That’s ten Benjamins, a year’s worth of car insurance or two impulsive trips to Costco…

I’m not sure if I can still get this bad boy pushing 1k/month by year’s end so I’ve challenged myself to make $1000 total over the next three months. Sounds fairly simple right? I mean after all, there are a ton of bloggers doing more impressive numbers than that. Allan, David and the Jeff/Ben powerhouse team are just a few examples.

To be completely honest, I’m scared to do this. $1000 is a lot of money compared to the bits and pieces I’ve been pulling in so far. There’s a very real possibility that I will fail, and will do so publicly.

I don’t just want to make a thousand bucks (though that will be nice), I want to prove to myself that blogging success isn’t beyond my reach and encourage you to get hustling, whatever that means to you.

How I’m going to make $1k

Affiliate marketing

I’ve had very limited success with affiliate marketing on NinjaBudgeter. I have made a few sales (Amazon, and a more expensive course) but nothing to write home about. That’s going to change, and here’s how I’m going to do it:

I’m going to dig deep into my analytics and see which posts on my site are getting the most traffic (I really should know this…). Then, I am going to go through each post and try to find affiliate offers that are a great balance of what my readers need, and of course, fit in with the post. It’s a balance, I really need to feel good about what I’m promoting.

I’ve recently signed up for a couple of new (to me) affiliate programs that I’m stoked about so I’m going to enjoy this.

Ads

I have enabled Adsense ads on this site. Currently, I’m using AutoAds. This means that I’ve put one piece of code in one place on the site and Google (hopefully) chooses ads that suit the content and match the flow of the page. I don’t have to deal with inserting each individual ad.

Though I tried this in the past and wasn’t thrilled about how it made the site feel, I’m going to give it another shot. With the traffic I have now, I should be able to pull in $80-100 per month, bringing me almost ⅓ of the way to my goal of $1000 by year’s end and helping to pay for my hosting and the tools that I use.

Update October 8th – I have had ads up for a few weeks now and though I’ve made nearly $100, I absolutely can not stand how Adsense Auto Ads takes over every part of your website and you can’t stop them from showing in certain areas. The thing that really gets me is that I’ve had ads appearing in my header, making the readable portion of my page far too small. I just can’t deal with it and I’ve gone to placing ads manually :(.

Sponsored posts

I ran one sponsored post earlier this year and it was the easiest $100 I ever made. After a podcast interview with Pete from Do You Even Blog (great podcast, definitely recommend), I reached out to another site owner who was in the midst of launching a product and offered a sponsored post (and a promotion package) for $90. Now I know that $90 was pretty low for what I offered, but meh, live and learn.

I’d like to run one sponsored post per month for October, November and December. Based on my current traffic, social following and general street-cred in the personal finance community, I think $200-250 is a pretty reasonable ask for a sponsored post. Please go ahead and let me know if I’m wrong here :).

How to find companies that will sponsor my site

For a few months now, every time I come across a sponsored post, I add the company to a Google spreadsheet. Keeping track of companies that I know for a fact will pay for a sponsored post gives me a great starting point when looking for companies to reach out to.

I don’t have a ton of companies on my list at this time, probably less than ten. Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to do some research on how to find companies who are interested in sponsorship. If you know of a good resource for this please send it my way!

My own product

That’s right, I want to launch a product. A few months back, I won a contest from the guys at Breaking The One Percent, it was a copy of Epic Instructor Lab by Kari Sayers. I have yet to check the course out but I will be doing that in the next month.

I want to launch a thorough, affordable course on how to cut your grocery bill in half. I’m thinking of a price point around $40-50 but I’m open to suggestions. In our family, I do the budgeting and most of the shopping/meal planning so you could say that this is kind of my specialty.

Whether or not it will sell…I have no idea. I know I can provide a ton of value but knowing exactly what kind of course will resonate with my audience…so, you, is tough. There are a hundred different ways that I can provide a valuable course but I keep coming back to this as it’s what I’m best at. Again, I’m open to suggestions/rediretions.

Naturally, I’m not going to be able to put a course together in a couple of weeks, so my goal is to have something to launch by December.

All of this is great, but I still need to get my traffic up. Ads, affiliate offers, sponsored posts and products don’t really mean much if nobody is swinging by this site to check it all out.

Here’s how I’m going to try and get my traffic numbers up over the next three months:

Post more

I’m aiming to up my posting form once per week to twice per week. In the past I’ve gotten really hung up on the quality vs. quantity thing but ultimately, the more articles I have out there the more opportunities I have to be found. At this time, my site only has around 60 posts and I’d like to get that over 100 with 5-10 key pillar posts.

Pinterest

Right now 60% of my traffic is coming from Pinterest. I’m not happy with how high this percentage is, but it is nice to be getting the traffic. I’m going to continue doing what I’m doing now which is using Tailwind to post to around 45 group boards, posting to my own boards and spending around an hour per week on the site checking things out and sharing others’ content.

While I appreciate the traffic I get from Pinterest, I find the site confusing and a little annoying. There are always little bugs such as the Save button disappearing randomly from my own pins. The analytics also make no sense. While my Pinterest traffic has tripled since January, my ‘engaged viewers’ has dropped from 120k to just over 39k as of today…

I can’t make heads or tails of how they decide who is popular and what content to show.

Though I’ve had a bit of success, I find the platform to be confusing and I’m not sure I want to continue investing a ton of effort there.

SEO

I would say I have a fairly decent understanding of SEO. I worked as a Marketing Manager for a robotics company for the last two years and spent a good deal of time reading on how to optimize the company’s site and testing different things.

My 50+/- organic hits per day however, tells me that I have a lot to learn. I have been reading Mike Pearson’s blog and am hoping to scrape together enough money to take his course when it opens up again in the fall. If you want to learn more about SEO, Mike’s blog is an excellent place to get started.

Twitter

Twitter is an interesting beast. I have a decent following (around 6k), but just can’t seem to get much traffic. When I post quotes, interesting thoughts etc., I seem to get a lot of engagement but getting people to transition from Twitter to my site is really hard. I’m going to try posting more 5-10x per day on Twitter and see if that helps get some more traffic flowing.

Facebook ads

I got interested in Facebook ads earlier this year when I heard the Deacon Hayes interview on the Side Hustle Nation podcast. I the episode, Deacon talks about how he has been able to get his ads cash flow positive, meaning the traffic he’s getting is earning him more through affiliate sales than it costs him.

How awesome is that? This is going to have to wait until I start seeing a bit of income flowing as we don’t have it in the budget right now.

Flipboard

I have a read a few posts lately about using Flipboard to generate traffic including this one. While I’m interested in this, I don’t know too much about Flipboard yet. It’s on my radar for the next few months though.

Conclusion

Before I can start moving forward, I’ve had to take a long look at where my site and brand are now. I get a lot of positive feedback on my content and brand but honestly, my engagement is low. With a bounce rate hovering around 90%, my readers aren’t sticking around to check out more of my content. This site is not yet one of those ‘holy-crap-I-need-to-bookmark-this’ sites. While I think I could make a living this way, it’s not really what I want in the long run.

I want a community.

I want to attract dozens of post comments and have my readers really engage with what I write. Maybe someday to build a Facebook group where budgeters and bloggers alike come to share ideas, inspiration and help each other out.

But I’m not there yet.

How you can help

If you’re so inclined, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Whether it’s a quick encouragement, a thought about my ideas, my site design, criticism or whatever else, I’d love it if you’d engage and let me know what you think.

You are the reader, and really, this is all about you.

Also, I think it would be awesome if you would consider joining me in this $1000 challenge. I think I can make a grand, and I think you can too. let me know if you’re going to join me and try to do the same with your site. I’ll support you in any way I can.

Want to see how this pans out? Enter your email below to receive updates on the challenge as I post them!

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23 thoughts on “The $1000 Challenge – How I’m Going To Make 1K By The End Of The Year”

  1. Hi Mike,

    As an aspiring blogger, I’ll be watching to see how things go for you. I definitely enjoy your content. You write in a friendly, conversational way that’s totally approachable. I also love the site design. It’s clean and easy on the eyes!

    So really, I have no complaints about your content, and am equally puzzled with your lack of income and traffic.

    I look forward to watching you progress in your newest challenge! I’ll definitely be taking notes and learning what I can. 🙂

    • Thanks for the kind comment Chrissy.

      I really appreciate hearing that people enjoy my content, what more can a blogger ask for right?

      I wouldn’t say that I’m puzzled at my lack of income/traffic, so much as I just haven’t invested enough time into this site. It’s been live for two years now and I have only around 60 articles. That’s pretty low and definitely plays a role in my site being found less than it could.

      Thank you for following Chrissy, I appreciate you!

  2. Hey Mike,

    It was really interesting to read about your $100 challenge, and I’m super excited to follow your journey in this challenge as well!

    I’m a (very) new blogger with only like 5 months of blogging experience, so I can’t really tell you much about how to improve traffic or otherwise, but here’s my 2 cents’ worth from a reader’s perspective:

    (1) I really enjoyed reading your ideas on how to improve your blog income. But what stood out to me the most was the course on grocery budgeting. As a reader, I always support my favourite bloggers through their own products. I can imagine your grocery budgeting course to be of insane value-add.

    (2) Perhaps another avenue you can look toward improving traffic is via guest posting? I’ve found many of my favourite bloggers via guest posts on bigger sites!

    (3) I love what you said about community, and about making a ‘holy-crap-I-need-to-bookmark-this’ kind of site. It really struck a chord in me because that’s exactly what I’m trying to do now, but it’s been a difficult journey. Nevertheless, I applaud your efforts and intentions in making this site great for your readers. It’s very admirable. 🙂

    (4) Don’t worry about failing – Shoot for the moon. And even if you miss, you’d land among the stars. 🙂

    Just want you to know that I really enjoy your content and I’d definitely be sticking around for the long run. I hope that can provide you with some encouragement. 🙂

    • Thank you for the encouragement Liz, it means a lot!

      I’m glad to hear that you like the idea of an affordable product on cutting your grocery bill. I have a lot of value to add on that front!

      You hit the nail on the head with guest posting – I haven’t done much of it. I really should try to hit one or two per month to help expand my reach. I have been featured on a couple of blogs in the past including Finance For Geek and Millennial Money Man but it has been a while since I’ve reached out with anything.

      I want this site to be memorable. I know that I’ve definitely made an impact with a couple of my posts including the one about Dave Ramsey that still brings in a huge amount of my traffic. That said, I know I can add a lot more value and I want to keep finding ways to do that.

      You’re right, I shouldn’t worry about failing. It’s just a little less fun to do it in front of a crowd 🙂

      Thank you so much for the encouragement Liz, it really means a lot!

  3. Best of luck with this challenge. I think your approach with sponsored posts is good. I actually have very little experience with sponsored posts, but I know a lot of bloggers, including others in the finance, are doing really well with this approach and your price seems very reasonable.

  4. Hi Mike! Thanks so much for the mention! I absolutely love that you are challenging yourself to $1k by the end of the year. I love the plan you have to make this happen. Of course, I’m a big fan of creating your own digital product and my bet is that you can actually put together a pretty good one in less time than you think 🙂 Sending you lots of positive money vibes and good luck on your challenge!

  5. You gained a reader in me from your post about Dave Ramsey! While we owe our finances being in a much better place because of his book, Total Money Makeover, there are still many things I disagree with him on and I was happy to read I wasn’t the only one! Have not had time to look around your site too much but always click over when I see emails from you. Thanks for the content! As a SAH mom, I’m definitely looking forward to checking out your course on saving money on grocery bills. Best of luck to you on your challenge!

  6. Wow. You are a good story teller. It is a good idea to challenge oneself. I started about 1 month ago and I have made about 6 dollars through adsense. I think a goal of 30 dollars is in order. That will pay for my webhosting at least. Thanks for the idea.

  7. Hey Mike! I love this post, and can certainly relate to your blogging journey. It sounds like you and I started our blogs around the same time, and in many ways, are at a similar point in the journey.

    I’ve always enjoyed your writing style, and your honesty is refreshing. Income-wise, the approach I’ve taken is to focus on blog-related freelance work, (content marketing/SEO). I’m projecting that income to grow to around $1000/month starting in October. (I started in June and have been trending towards that number.)

    I will admit that the freelance work does compete with time spent on the blog, but I’m finding ways to strike a balance.

    The freelance work provides income that I can reinvest into the blog (something I’ve yet to do, because I’m having too much fun investing it in the markets lol)

    That said, I do plan to spend on FB ads for affiliate-based posts, and eventually outsource some of my blogging tasks to a VA.

    • Thank you for taking the time to read/comment MMM!

      I appreciate your kind words about the content. Great thoughts on the freelance work. It’s probably a much faster direction to head in terms of bringing in some revenue.

      Would you be willing to share a little on how you’re finding this freelance work? Maybe I’ll fire you an email and we can chat there.

  8. This is awesome, and I’m excited to see your progress towards this. I’m about 9 months into blogging and haven’t tried to focus on actually earning money from it yet. I tried the ad part of it as well and hated how it made the blog look. Do you have a good resource to show you how to place them manually? Good luck, I’m going to be following along!

    • Unfortunately I don’t. I’m trying to figure that out myself at the moment. I have used Adsense auto-ads for about a month and definitely don’t recommend it. They place ads literally anywhere on your site including in the header, blocking half of the page. I want to find a balance. I think I’ll end up finding a plugin that will allow me to insert the code in only specific places.

  9. Hi Mike,

    I love your honesty! You’re not one of those bloggers who brag about how much they earn. I started my blog in February 2016 and my traffic has been elusive. The income has been nothing to write home about.

    Sometimes, I wonder if I’m crazy sticking to this blogging career but then I remember why I started it in the first place and I get motivated to continue.

    I’m going to join your $1000 challenge because I need to prove to myself that I can turn this side hustle into a full-time money making business.

    Thanks for sharing this encouraging post!

    • Thanks for the kind words Jennifer! I’d like to be making more but I want to be honest with my readers. I’m not going to fake success or make things look better than they are..it’s just not how I roll.

      You’re not crazy. This is a long haul. You can put yourself in the top 10% just by sticking with it for two years 🙂

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